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A Short History of Ethiopia: Background information when reading There Is No Me Without You

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There Is No Me Without You

One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Her Country's Children

by Melissa Fay Greene

There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene X
There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Sep 2007, 496 pages

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A Short History of Ethiopia

This article relates to There Is No Me Without You

Print Review

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (historically known as Abyssinia) is located in east Africa, on the "Horn of Africa" (map). Once an important trade route due to its location on the Red Sea, it has been landlocked since 1993, when the province of Eritrea gained independence. It is the oldest independent country in Africa (and is unique in that it was never colonized), the second-oldest official Christian nation (after Armenia) and one of the 51 original members of the United Nations. Its capital is Addis Ababa (pronounced ah-deece ah-bah-bah). With a landmass a little over twice the size of Texas and a population of about 75 million, it is the third most populous country in Africa (after Nigeria and Egypt) and the 16th most populous in the world.

Emperor Haile Salassie* ruled from 1930 to 1974, during which time he undertook a program of rapid modernization; but his reign ended abruptly in 1974 when a pro-Soviet military junta, the Derg, deposed him and established a one-party communist state. Three years later Somalia attacked but was quickly defeated due to weapons and support supplied to Ethiopia by the Soviet Union and Cuba. However, an ongoing insurgency coupled with the 1985 drought eventually brought down the Derg in 1991, putting the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in power. In 1993 the province of Eritrea became independent (ending 20 years of conflict). In 1998 a border dispute led to a two year war with Eritrea. In May 2005, Ethiopia held a multiparty election resulting in the EPRDF being returned to power, but some claimed election fraud - in June and November 2005 demonstrators were shot and killed by police.

In Ethiopia today 11% of children are ophans, nearly two-thirds of school-age children are not in school and only 41% of adults can read; 81% of the population live on less than $2 a day, and 26% live on less than $1/day. In the USA the ratio of doctors to patients is about 1 to 142 - in 2003 in Ethiopia, the ratio of doctors to patients was 1 to 34,000 - 5 times worse than the sub-Saharan Africa average.

*Haile Salassie is considered by Rastafarians to be the messiah as predicted by Biblical prophecy. Rastafari comes from "Ras" (Duke or Chief) and "Tafari" (Tafari Makonnen was the pre-coronation name of Haile Selassie). The Rastafarian religious movement originated in Jamaica during the 1930s, when some people became convinced that Salassie was Christ returned, based on his status as the only African monarch of a fully independent state, and that his titles included King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Conquering Lion of Judah, which are terms used to describe the second coming of Christ (Revelation 19.16 and 5.5). However, according to Ethiopian tradition, these titles were accorded to all Solomonic emperors beginning in 980 BC — well before Revelation was written. According to some traditions, Haile Selassie was the 225th in an unbroken line of Ethiopian monarchs descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (ruler of the ancient kingdom of Sheba, believed to have been located in the region of modern-day Ethiopia or Yemen).

Haile Salassie had no role in the Rastafari movement and was a devout member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Publicly his views towards the Rastafarians ranged from sympathy to polite interest - a position that only served to enhance his reputation amongst Rastafarians, who saw this as proof that he was no false prophet.

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

This "beyond the book article" relates to There Is No Me Without You. It originally ran in September 2006 and has been updated for the September 2007 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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